Saturday, 13 December 2014

D'Israeli - Stickle-whacked!

Sniff! Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and prog 1911 sees the end of the modern classic, Stickleback. The mysterious pope of crime first appeared in 2000AD in February 2007, and over the last seven and a half years has kept us guessing as to who, or what, he really is. Killing him at Christmas too, thanks a lot Tharg, you green git! 

Baring a bloody scrap with Santa, visionary artist D'Israeli has been the sole artist on the strip. Bringing a grimy, texture-filled Victorian London to life, brimming with all manner of fantastic locations and colourful, monocromatic characters! The strip will be a big miss, but I have a feeling we are simply entering a new phase of the character's life...

Over to D'Israeli to tell us how Stickleback's swan song came to life, or should that be death? 

Tharg's brief was “I was thinking of another Stickleback cover for the last episode -  maybe an image of SB's harness lying discarded on the floor?” So I fired up Manga Studio EX5 and got to work!" 

"I usually try to provide two variants of a cover brief plus a “wild card,” but in this case, the image was so strong, and fit the story so well, I just did two small variations on the  brief, one exactly a stated, one with the addition of the empty Stickleback mask. Matt picked my variation with the mask." 

Spine tingling!

The Ugly Bug's fall...

"Then in on a new layer I drew a refined “pencil” drawing to just tighten up the details..."

Margaret Thatcher's true form.

"Next the Pencils & Blocking. Under the pencils I added blocks of colour to act as masks for the later painting and texturing. The grid of tiles was a late decision, constructed using Manga Studio’s excellent  perspective rulers. It’s a bit wonky at the top, but I wanted that part to fade to black anyway, so I didn’t waste time fixing it."


"Blocking and Shadow - I don’t usually add any sort of shading at the blocking stage, but in the case of the tiling, adding a transparent layer of colour over the existing tile pattern simplified later texturing and painting stages. Because I separate out the colour blocking  out into layers, I could just add the shading on a new layer between the foreground elements and the background tile pattern. One great advantage of working digitally is the ability to make major decisions like this “on the fly” without risk."

"At this stage I exported the image as a layered Photoshop file."

Red Devil?

"In Adobe Photoshop CC I added textures using a combination of the selection tools (to select different areas of the colour blocking) and the paint bucket tool, filling with textures of my own making."

D'Israeli's textures include coffee, stuff from down the back of the couch and egg from Mr Twit's beard.

Then it's back to Manga Studio EX5 for painting. Manga Studio can work with Photoshop files, so I just re-opened the file without further conversion. I use Manga Studio’s Transparent Watercolour brushes to paint in detail and shading. I’ve modified the brush settings so give harder edged, distinctive brush strokes (avoiding the slightly airbrushed look of the default settings). The point is for the end result to look as organic as possible." 

"While Manga Studio’s watercolour brushes aren’t quite as good as the ones in Corel Painter (which I used to use for finishing), the overall speed and performance of Manga Studio is so ridiculously superior that I’m confirmed in my decision to abandon Corel Painter."

Yes, over the years on this blog we've seen D'Israeli's very public, somewhat undignified break up with Coral Painter. I for one hope that the end of Stickleback helps the artist draw a line under this obviously painful split and both can get on with their lives.

"At this point I’m finished; the only step left is to re-open the file in Photoshop for export as a flattened TIFF. That’s then sent to 2000AD by FTP."

Criminal chrysalis 

 At the end of the strip we find out our protagonist's true identity, something I called back in 2010, go me!

 To honour our fallen antihero, I think it's only right to have a Stickleback Cover Gallery special!

We'll begin with the crooked crooks' debut way back in February 2007...

Stop picking your nose Stickleback!

Prog 1575 featured Stickleback's motley crew - Black Bob, Gay John, Fiery Jack and Little Tonga!

Day of the Tentacle!

Next, possibly my favourite Stickleback cover of all, the awesome Prog 1669...

There's gotta be fish paste in that hamper...

There exists a coloured version of this cover, while's lovely, I'm pleased they kept with the thematic monochrome approach...

Fetch the engine, fetch the engine! 

A very important cover next, as Stickleback faces off against the Iron Maiden Irena Bernoulli at the climax of Stickleback Book 3...

Stickleback always had a way with the ladies...

Evil is reborn as the Pope of Crime is reanimated by the Brotherhood of the Book. Ironically, this cover published in the same week that Pope Francis was elected. Truly, Tharg knows all!

Sticklebacta tank

Stickleback and his pal Henry...

Always a pioneer, Stickleback attempts to light Henry's burps.

A sorrie state of affairs as Stickleback and Bob get to work...

Ugly scenes on the first ever Black Friday...

The sinister sisters prepare to make mischief on Prog 1903...

The worst ever episode of 'Blind Date.'

And, the end... or should that be 'The Beginning?'

He sure looks dead to me...

I would like to publicly thank Mr D'Israeli for giving so much of his time and putting so much effort into his Stickleback posts for this blog. Over the years he has provided pages and pages of detailed information, given us free brushes and even made instructional videos to share his artistic process. I'm so flattered and it speaks volumes for the man. 

So thank you Matt, from myself and everyone who reads this blog.

 Stickeback is dead! Long live Stickleback! 

Monday, 1 December 2014

Cliff Robinson and Dylan Teague - Legal Eagle!

Well dear readers, did you know that kettle + bowl + stapler + screwdriver set = Mega City One? It does in the uber-creative brain of Mr Cliff Robinson! But more on that later...

The dream team of Cliff Robinson and Dylan Teague are back with another of Cliff's Mega-City equipment studies, this time, we get up close and personal with the Justice Department regulation eagle shoulder pad. Cliff really brings the piece to life, giving form and function to something we all too often choose to ignore, with it being somewhat impractical and all...

Anyway, below you can see Cliff's original ideas and first prelim sketch. From what I can make out, it looks like we were going to get a study of Dredd's arse or his crotch, so well done Tharg for going with choice #2!
"Pretty Polly! Pretty Polly!"

Cliff's mock up of the cover layout, nice to see the editorial staff went with Cliff's strapline (though mine is better!)
What do you call a sick eagle?

With the composition sorted, Cliff begins to meticulously ink the piece...
So far, so good - but here's where it gets a bit weird! Over to Cliff...
"As I was searching for prelims for your wonderful blog, I realised I couldn’t find any sketches for the Mega City One background. Then I remembered I’d used household bits’n’bobs to make up the city..."

All of these items are made of the finest polypropilop!

"I photographed them, arranged them on the computer, then printed them out in blue line around my picture of Dredd - yes, I actually fed my inked drawing of Dredd back into the printer!!! A procedure not for the faint hearted!"

I'll never look at a stapler the same way again!

"I then pencilled in all the surrounding detail on each of the 'buildings' and ended up with a passable Mega City One!"

Screwdriver Heights was one of MC-1's less salubrious blocks...

And below is that 'passable' version of Mega City One. Passable!?! Passable!?! It's brilliant!
Everything but the kitchen sink...

This week Cliff is making a rare appearance at a comic convention, the Lille Comic Festival, in fact. He provided some gobsmacking artwork for the event, based on Frank Frazetta's poster for Clint Eastwood's 'The Gauntlet."
The screwdriver set and kettle make a guest appearance!

Everything comes back to Eastwood...

Getting back to the 2000AD cover, with the inks done, it was over to legendary colourist Dylan Teague who had the unenviable task of bringing the image to life in glorious techno-colour! What an amazing job he did too...

This cover should win an Eagle Award

And here's how the prog looks on the shelf - in a word, spectacular!

Be careful or you'll be doing bird

Lucky sod Dylan is also going to Lille and has been hard at work colouring prints for his mate Patrick Goddard, not too shabby eh? Firstly we have a take on the classic Reservoir Dogs poster...

Reservoir Progs
And secondly, we go back to Eastwood again for Patrick and Dylan's take on the classic Magnum Force poster. Do you feel lucky...

Well Joe, I've got me health so I can't really grumble. Thanks for asking though.
Absolutely massive thanks to the boys for sending the images, an absolute classic cover and no mistake!

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Boo Cook - Masterclass!

I can't think of a more enthusiastic artist than there lovely Boo Cook! I've had the pleasure of watching him sketch a few times and he always seems more excited than his lucky punters, a true credit to Thrill Power. I was over the moon when I saw he was doing a movie Dredd cover for 'Uprise' and even happier when I discovered this was to feature on the American reprint. The boy deservedly done good! Over to Boo to tell us more"

"When the email came in from Matt Smith Tharg about this cover gig I had Henry Flint's incredible San Diego print image of comic Dredd v Movie Dredd as my desktop. Plus I think I was probably wearing my Henry drawn Dredd 'Uprise' t-shirt too, so when Matt Tharg asked if I'd like to do a movie Dredd cover, it instantly fried my joy calibration motherboard! When he requested that Dredd should be on the Lawmaster, I blew the rest of my circuits!"

While Boo is rebooted, let's take a look at Henry Flint's Dredd vs Dredd image...

Dredd to Dredd

It seems Boo is back online, "I stuck the Dredd blu-ray on and paused it at some key moments during the bike chase scene at the start and boiled it down to 2 favourite shots. I didn't want to work exactly from the reference, it was more a case of using them as inspiration because amazing as the movie is I always felt the Lawmaster could've been a tad bulkier and generally more in yer face - the uniform too, and now I had a chance to realise that in a drawing..."

"Do you require back up?"


"I had no idea what was meant to be happening in the story so I asked Matt Tharg about the background - he simply said "There's a riot" or words to that effect and I didn't need much more direction than that."

Baby Dredd with the stabilisers off.

Check out those sneaky Ezquerra jaggies!

"I was so excited about doing this piece that I think you can see that excitement pouring out of the explosions, whizzing gunfire and general chaos. There's plenty of Easter eggs in there too - nods to Lena Headey, Wood Harris and Geoff Barrow whose superb "Drokk' album was originally slated to be the movie soundtrack. A scrawler has written 'Snub 23' on the wall - he's a prominent Brighton street artist that I'm sure would appeal to many 2000AD fans."

Stop! Hammerstein!

"Plus of course the obligatory pimping of the band i'm currently involved in 'VöL' (check out their Soundcloud page here) but it wasn't me who wrote that, it was a scrawler. most likely Chopper or The Phantom." Yes, I will not have this blog used as a shameless vessel of self promotion!

Sump and Ump!?! A deadly combination!

"Matt Tharg asked if i could provide an inked version of this cover for a variant edition in the states so i had to try and make sure it worked in black and white as well as colour, so the inks are very tonal. It took a long time. I always take a long time, but this took over 5 days in total - why rush it? I was having the most fun I'd ever had doing art since i drew my first picture and i really hope that comes across."

Pi in the Sky?

Here's Boo's first picture. I must admit, when I saw the thumbnail, I thought he'd sent me a picture of an erm... feminine hygiene product with that strange blue water they insist on pouring on them!

New Always Ultra - take in moisture like a flower

And here's the stunning coloured version, which totally captures the anarchic chaos of Mega City One! A final word from Boo "MEGATHANX to Matt for throwing it my way!"

Dredd knew he shouldn't have eaten that synth-vindaloo!

And MEGATHANX to Boo for throwing this our way! It's always a pleasure to see his work and share his enthusiasm! Check out his magnificent blog here!

Dredd Uprise no 2 is available on November 26th.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Jon Davis-Hunt - Howling at the Moon

Rejoice Earthlets! This week saw the release of Alec Worley and John Davis Hunt's fantastic collected Age of the Wolf Graphic Novel. This nightmarish, lycanthropic story follows thirty five rather eventful years in the life of the headstrong heroine, Rowan Morrigun as she struggles to survive in a world overran by sentient werewolves. 

The book is split into three arcs, with fifteen and twenty years between them, giving us some wonderful character progression and world building opportunities. It boasts an intelligent, roller coaster of a story with breathtaking visuals by the mighty JDH! Buy it today!

The very busy Jon (lead designer on Forza Horizon and recently announced artist on Gail Simone's new Vertigo series, dontchaknow?) took the time to send this breakdown of his awesome cover. Over to Jon, "This was my initial sketch. I'd thought about keeping the cover really stripped down and graphically simple, using the blue of Rowans gloves and trousers for the background, creating a nice negative space element inside the image. However, Tharg thought it needed more 'Wolfness' and so..."

Wot no wolves?

"When I moved onto the inks I skewed the image a bit and stuck in a bloody big wolfy moon! BOOM!"

Yikes! Where did that come from!?!

"Finally, I added the colours and some snow (to tie in with the very first storyline)."

Arrrooooooowwww Moon!

Huge thanks to Jon for sending the images and blurb! Go and buy this book, it's a great read!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Richard Elson - "Ground those Skydogs!"

Well how's that for an action packed cover? Absolutely amazing work by Kingdom artist extaordinaire Richard Elson, now that's a Dogfight! The cover depicts Nick Rogue battling a couple of terrifying Stingers in the skies of Australia - only in 2000AD folks!

Over to Richard to tell us how this awesome cover revolved... I mean, evolved"

"Tharg asked for a cover based around the scene of a dogfight between Nick and a couple of stingers that is set up in part eight of Kingdom. Three roughs for this cover - luckily number three got chosen with no changes. Tharg liked that there was a clear view of the plane in that rough."

These roughs are amazing! Such energy and dynaism, stunning! 

Elson's woofs

"I flipped the image, turned it to blue line, then inked the plane. Dan described Nick’s plane as - ‘a Sopwith Camel-type with twin machine guns firing through the prop. It could even be a Red Baron-type tri-plane.’"

Those magnificent dogs in their flying machines

"I then flipped the page to it’s proper orientation, drew in the stingers and added the effects elements that would be rendered in colour on separate layers."

"Snowy! Snowy! I can see the pub from here!"

"Then on to the finished colour image with added bullet casings and wings on the stingers."

"Rogue leader standing by!"

"For some reason the file got corrupted as I was uploading it to the ftp site, so Tharg asked me to send the page over again (Maybe it was bugs, ha ha ha! - Pete.) Never one to miss an opportunity to mess about, I decided to up the contrast on the plane before re-submitting the final colours."

Dog in Himmel!

And here's how the action packed cover looks at you local newsagent!

Nick couldn't hold his fart in any longer when the singers appeared!

Huge thanks to Richard for sending the images and breakdown. It's a brilliant cover that evokes memories of the war comics of old, with a brilliant 2000AD twist! Those colours are astonishing too!